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This unique rusting derelict lighthouse is one of only two cast iron off shore lighthouses in Britain and is a prominent landmark at the mouth of the Burry Inlet on the coast of South Wales. Today the Burry Inlet is used only by small craft, but the Lighthouse belongs to an era when Llanelli was a major Welsh port with an important coastal and foreign trade.
The first lighthouse was erected about half a mile north of Whitford Point, in 1854. Designed by Captain John Paisley Luckraft, who was the Harbour Master at Llanelli, he estimated that the cost of erection would be £ 850, and his design was a lighthouse built on a platform supported by strong timber piles. Work began on the project in May 1854, but completion was delayed both by bad weather and the late arrival of the lamp from Wilkins & Co. The light was fixed; first lit on the night of 22nd January 1855 and was visible for 7 miles.
The first test of the stability of Luckraft's design came a few weeks later when a sustained period of severe frost filled the estuary with large amounts of drifting ice which swept buoys from their moorings. When the tide ebbed, large ice floes became packed against the timber piles. Despite the dangerous pressures exerted by these masses of ice, the keepers reported that the timber had suffered no damage. The following year, events conspired to almost wreck the Lighthouse. On 29th January 1856, some wreckage became trapped amongst the piles, and broke one of the stays and before this could be repaired, more wreckage became entangled during a storm on 7th February, which led to the loss of the remaining stayrods.
Later that day, Michael Leheane, one of two keepers, reported that the tide had risen to an extraordinary height, and that the sea was the heaviest he had experienced. Fearing for their lives, both keepers abandoned the lighthouse at low water. On the following day, Captain Luckraft mobilised the local pilots, and headed for the lighthouse by steamer. He found that 13 of the 18 stayrods had been washed away. They eventually succeeded in sufficiently strengthening the structure to withhold the force of the weather and despite the continuing storm, Michael Leheane and William Hughes, a Llanelli pilot, bravely agreed to stay the night there.
During the following months, further repairs were carried out and the piles were reinforced. More damage occurred in 1857 when the "Stark", of Dublin, collided with the lighthouse, demolishing the north-east pile. The pilot of the vessel was eventually fined for neglect of duty. By 1864 the lighthouse had become a major headache for the commissioners of the Burry. The cost of repeated repairs continued to rise and the lighthouse keepers often complained that the structure shook in stormy conditions. In October of that year, the Commissioners called for a report for the construction of a new lighthouse.
The second lighthouse was constructed in 1865 under the direction of Trinity House at a cost of £ 1,133. The tower is 44 feet high and at high water only 20 feet of it is seen. It is constructed of seven rings of heavy cast iron plates bolted together on the external flange. The iron plates are 4 feet square to form a circular base with a 24 feet diameter and they become smaller as each ring is constructed to form a circular 8th level with a 11 feet 6 inches diameter.
At the 8th level an elegant gallery railing was made of 10 cast iron brackets with roundel decorated spandrels and carried the main balcony which had a wooden slatted floor. The interior of the Lighthouse was partly filled with stone ballast and access was by means of an external ladder bolted to the lighthouse which ran from ground level to the balcony where there is a door to the store room cum cramped living accommodation.
This 8th level was also of cast iron plates and supported the lantern room which is made of 3 rows of 20 rectangular panes to form a dome of glass. The lantern room has a small external balcony to enable the glass to be cleaned.
The Lighthouse was in use during the First World War in 1914 but ceased operating in 1926. Its base is said to be littered with unexploded bombs because it was used as a marker by army gunners for target practise in the Second World War and therefore care must be exercised when walking to it at low tide.